Welcome to Startups Weekly, a nuanced look at this week’s startup news and trends by Senior Reporter and Equity co-host Natasha Mascarenhas. Subscribe to receive it in your inbox here.
Tech’s guiding principles aren’t that hard to come by these days: discipline, focus, and money conservation. But I’ve always found those same concerns to be especially at odds with what it means to be an early-stage founder who pitches your vision: You have to have Elon Musk ambition, big dreams, and the ability to make a. sell the company to investors. before there are real statistics behind it.
In some ways, it’s the investor’s job to see the reason to say yes anyway. In other ways, the recession is causing early-stage founders to professionalize at an accelerated pace; philosophically, it’s more like the late-stage company pitching its Series C than the buzzy pre-seed.
I’ve noticed little things about how founders have changed their pitch early on, suggesting that the controls are currently less about the messiah and more about monetization.
Read the rest of my column on TC+: “Founders are changing their pitch.”
In the rest of this newsletter, we talk about AI attribution, corporate layoffs, and modern entrepreneurship. As always you can follow me Twitter or Instagram to continue the conversation. If you feel like giving me extra support, subscribe to my very free Substack.
In fact, we’re starting to see AI being a factor in technology redundancies
Layoffs are an almost daily occurrence during this news cycle – I’ve covered Chief and Clubhouse layoffs within an hour of each other – but the reasons behind each reduction are often non-specific. Dropbox surprised me. CEO Drew Houston, who laid off 16% of the workforce this week, called “the AI era of computing” in reference to the layoffs. “We have believed for many years that AI will give us new superpowers and completely transform knowledge work. And we’ve been working toward this future for a long time, as this year’s product pipeline will demonstrate,” he said.
Here’s what you need to know: I expect there will be more layoffs in the workforce that are partly attributed to artificial intelligence. It’s not a new take: the concern I hear most often about AI is its ability, or intent, to replace everyone’s jobs. Breaking out of that pattern takes a lot of snaps: Harvey AI, backed by Sequoia this week, is all the rage at tech diners everywhere for its pitch to boost lawyers.
TC’s Mary Ann Azevedo broke the news this week: “Fintech-focused VC firm Anthemis Group is laying off 28% of its staff as part of restructuring.” She reports, “Anthemis declined to provide further details on its future strategy, instead pointing me to this blog post by co-founder Amy Nauiokas. In the post, Nauiokas writes that the firm aims to “translate the 2022 reckoning in private markets into lasting change in the structure and methodology of early stage investing.”
Here’s what you need to know: We don’t often see corporate layoffs, even though I feel many are ghosts these days. The discounts will continue – and perhaps louder this time. Last June, Backstage Capital laid off most of its staff, leaving just two people at the venture firm.
A modern view of an entrepreneur
On Equity this week I interviewed Ankur Nagpal of Ocho, the founder of the business owner-focused fintech, as well as Teachable and Vibe Capital. We talked about everything from the temperature of solo GPs and how building in public has affected his trajectory.
Here’s an extract we have within minutes of admission: “A great CEO… you have to be a little sociopathic. And there are a lot of things that I just loved to struggle with when it came to being a CEO because it would be against my values as a person,” Nagpal said.
- A strange parallel: Instacart’s co-founder and former CEO Apoorva Mehta raised $30 million for his new healthcare startup, WSJ reported last year. That news makes it all the more interesting that current Instacart CEO Fidji Simo co-founded a health clinic, according to Fortune. What a weird parallel between the leadership of a grocery delivery startup in the past and the current leadership according to MinRegion! Jokes aside, maybe it’s a nod to what Amazon was trying to do with Whole Foods and One Medical, Instacart Edition.
- Big excuses: to those I missed in Boston last week. I was ready to jump on stage, but then food poisoning – from a coffee shop that will remain nameless – took over. I heard it was a hoot though, so check out the TC+ recap posts coming your way soon.
- Programming Note: If you’re reading this in a browser, get this in your inbox too! Subscribe here and share it with your friends.
- Naturally: It’s already Disrupt season. As a reminder, there’s a ticket for every budget and role.
- And finally I have a shameless plug: Scoops make me! If you hear about a venture firm or startup that wins, raises, fails or, oh I don’t know, launches an executive because of internal events, tell me. I like to see early pitch decks and term sheets too. Happy to speaking of anonymity and explain more of my process and what I’m looking for. You can tell me things on Signal at +1 925 271 0912. No pitches, please.
Seen on MinRegion
Muslims come into focus in Southeast Asia’s fintech boom
Founded by Adyen and Affirm alums, Ansa aims to help merchants create virtual wallets for customers
Only one fintech unicorn was minted in the first quarter
Snap shares down 24% on weak earnings, ad revenues down
Seen on MinRegion+
After initially braving the global slowdown, African startups’ results are falling in the first quarter
First Republic’s results are proof that the collapse of the SVB was brutal for smaller banks
It’s not time we started worrying about leaving unicorns
Threading the Needle: 5 Questions for Lisa Lambert of National Grid Partners
Take care of yourself,